Hyperion Unveils Design of its Small Modular Nuclear Reactor, the Hyperion Power Module

At the recent Annual Winter Conference of the American Nuclear Society in Washington, and simultaneously at the “Powering Toward 2020” conference in London, England, Hyperion Power Generation Inc. revealed the design for the first version of its Hyperion Power Module (HPM), a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) that it intends to have licensed and manufactured at facilities in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

The HPM is a compact (approx. 1.5m wide x 2.5m tall), sealed and self-contained, simple-to-operate nuclear power reactor, euphemistically referred to by the company as a “fission battery”. Over its 7-10 year operational life, the HPM will deliver 70 MW of thermal energy, or approximately 25 MWe. Each module will cost $50 million; initial deliveries, slated to begin in the second half of 2013, are being scheduled, the company says.

The reason for the low electrical efficiency (36% of 70 MWt) is that the steam loop does not run through the inside of the reactor, for simplicity and safety, the company says.

The HPM is small enough to be manufactured en masse and transported in its entirety via ship, truck, or rail, and is intended to be buried underground for its operational life, after which it will be dug up and refueled at Hyperion.

The US Department of Energy is supporting the development and deployment of SMRs for the domestic market, and plans to establish an SMR program, with a target of FY2011. DOE defines an SMR as producing less than 350 MWe.

The DOE groups SMR technology into three categories: LWR-based designs; non-LWR designs; and Advanced Reactor Concepts and Technologies. The HPM falls into that last category, as do designs and concepts from a few other vendors in the same general power range as the HPM.

Advanced SMR (<350 MWe) Vendor Designs & Concepts
Company Product Power rating
Brookhaven Technology Group Global Energy Module (GEM50) 10 MWe
Westinghouse-Toshiba Toshiba 4S (Super Safe, Small and Simple) 10 MWe
Hyperion Power Generation HPM 25 MWe
Sandia National Laboratory Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor 100 MWe
General Electric Power Reactor Inherently Safe Module (PRISM) 311 MWe
TerraPower Traveling Wave Reactor (TWR) 350 MWe

The first version of the HPM is a uranium nitride (U2N3)-fueled, lead-bismuth (Pb-Bi)-cooled, fast reactor. This will include all of the company’s original design criteria, but is expected to take less time for regulators to review and certify than the initial concept of a uranium hydride-fueled reactor created by Dr. Otis Peterson during his tenure at Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to Hyperion CEO John “Grizz” Deal.

We have every intention of producing Dr. Peterson’s uranium hydride-fueled reactor; it is an important breakthrough technology for the nuclear power industry. However, in our research of the global market for small, modular nuclear power reactors—aka SMRs—we have found a great need for the technology. Our clients do not want to wait for regulatory systems around the globe, to learn about and be able to approve a uranium hydride system. A true SMR design, that delivers a safe, simple and small source of clean, emission-free, robust and reliable power is needed today—not years from now. As we construct and deploy this launch design, we will continue to work towards licensing Dr. Peterson’s design.

—John Deal

This initial design for the company’s small, modular, nuclear power reactor (SMR) is the first of several that have been under co-development with staff from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Nuclear Engineering International reports that:

  • The HPM uses 24 assemblies of uranium nitride fuel, and 18 control rods. The center of the core is hollow so that boron carbide marbles could be dropped in the center to shut down the reactor in an emergency.

  • The U2N3 fuel is 20% enriched and set in HT-9 cladding tubes. Flowing around the pins is liquid Pb-Bi coolant. Quartz is used as a radial reflector. A gas plenum is at one end of the 2-3m long fuel pins.

  • Two sets of boron carbide control rods keep the reactivity of the core under control.

  • The hot (500 °C) coolant transfers its heat through an intermediate heat exchanger to another lead-bismuth loop, through another intermediate heat exchanger to a tertiary circuit with an undisclosed fluid, and then through a third heat exchanger to water (at about 200 °C).

Hyperion Power’s market goals include the distribution of at least 4,000 of its transportable, sealed, self-contained, simple-to-operate fission-generated power units.

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